(director: Robert Moore; screenwriter: Neil Simon; cinematographer: John A. Alonzo; editor: Sidney Levin; music: Patrick Williams; cast: Peter Falk (Lou Peckinpaugh), Ann-Margaret (Jezebel Dezire), Eilenn Brennan (Betty DeBoop), Sid Caesar (Ezra Dezire), Stockard Channing (Bess),James Coco (Marcel), Scatman Cruthers (Tinkers), Dom DeLuise (Pepe Damascu), Louise Fletcher (Marlene DuChard), Fernando Lamas (Paul DuChard), John Houseman (Jasper Blubber); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Ray Stark; Columbia Pictures; 1978)

“Disappointing thin comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Playwright Neil Simon scripts a lame parody of Bogie noir films that include Casablanca, the Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Maltese Falcon. Director Robert Moore  (“Murder by Death”/”Chapter Two”) keeps the one-liners flying, in a disappointing thin comedy that seems more fit for a SNL skit than a feature movie. All the main characters of those films are spoofed. It’s a weak follow-up to the successful Murder by Death.

Peter Falk plays a Sam Spade-like private detective named Lou Peckinpaugh, who resides in the “fictional” city of San Francisco in 1939 during the days when WWII was-looming. Falk initially investigates the murder of his partner Floyd Merkle, in which he’s the main suspect. The cops note his ongoing affair with his partner’s widow (Marsha Mason). Into  Falk’s life comes a mysterious new client (Madeline Kahn), who places him on retainer to obtain a coveted object. Falk proceeds to a watering hole called Nix Place, and he encounters some German army officers, a torch singer (Eileen Brennan) who leads the crowd in a sing-along and the woman he once loved (Louise Fletcher) who is now married to a French resistance fighter (Fernando Lamas). The embittered Lou warns the bar’s piano player (Scatman Crothers) not to play their song, Jeepers Creepers. Falk is next led to the wheel-chair bound industrialist Ezra C.V. Mildew Dezire Jr., nee Vladimir Tserijemiwtz (Sid Caesar) and his sexy wife Jezebel (Ann-Margret).

Things are convoluted, as Falk ties up all the plot threads and chooses which of the several femme fatales that he’ll be with.
Absurdly silly, and a waste of the talent gathered.

The Cheap Detective (1978) by Robert Moore - Unsung Films

REVIEWED ON 5/26/2017       GRADE: C+